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Busy time for Bulls starts with introduction of new coach
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff

Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, coach Doc Rivers and assistant coach Armond Hill, from left, gesture during the second half of Game 6 of the NBA basketball finals.

 

Associated Press

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, left, and assistant coach Tom Thibodeau watch the Celtics practice as they prepare to meet the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA basketball Finals

 

Associated Press

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James

 

AP Photo/Akron Beacon Journal, Paul Tople

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Published: 6/23/2010 12:00 AM | Updated: 6/23/2010 7:47 PM

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The Bulls could take a monumental change of direction in the next few weeks.

The process begins Wednesday when new coach Tom Thibodeau will be formally introduced at the Berto Center. The 18-year NBA assistant agreed to terms on June 5 but in the meantime was busy helping coach the Boston Celtics into Game 7 of the Finals.

Thursday's NBA draft is approaching quickly. The Bulls hold the No. 17 pick and don't seem to be thrilled with any of the options. If given the opportunity, they'd most likely trade the pick or trade down in the draft, but demand is extremely light for this crop of players.

Really, though, the draft is a minor subplot compared to what will follow. One week later on July 1, the negotiations can begin on biggest free-agent bonanza the NBA has ever seen.

The Bulls expect to have around $20 million to spend and are exploring sign-and-trade possibilities that could bring a second significant star to town.

Obviously, the biggest prize is LeBron James, and the Bulls think they have a good chance to land the two-time MVP. Cleveland won more than 60 games the past two seasons, but a third straight early exit from the playoffs has forced James to question whether the Cavaliers can win a championship.

If he's leaving Cleveland, the Bulls are a logical destination because of James' respect for Derrick Rose and fondness for the city of Chicago.

The other top contenders are Miami, which could pair James with Dwyane Wade, and New York, which has enough cap room to sign James and another top free agent, such as Toronto's Chris Bosh.

If James stays away, the Bulls might go all out for Bosh, an all-star power forward. There has been talk for months that Atlanta shooting guard Joe Johnson is hoping to play in Chicago.

If the Hawks are willing to take back Kirk Hinrich or Luol Deng in a sign-and-trade for Johnson, the Bulls would have enough money left to sign Bosh or someone else. James and Johnson is another conceivable pairing.

Without a trade, they might still be able to pair Johnson with a less expensive power forward such as Utah's Carlos Boozer or New York's David Lee. No matter how it works out, the Bulls think they're in position to take a giant step forward this summer.

If the Bulls hang on to their draft spot, a couple of favorites to be chosen are Oklahoma State guard James Anderson and Kentucky power forward Patrick Patterson.

The 6-foot-6 Anderson averaged 22.3 points as a junior and was named Big 12 player of the year. The biggest question is whether he will be an effective spot-up shooter. According to DraftExpress.com, Anderson didn't shoot particularly well against no defenders in tests at the Chicago predraft camp.

The 6-9 Patterson averaged 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a sophomore, then his numbers dropped when Kentucky added last year's group of talented freshmen.

Others who could be on the Bulls' list are Kentucky point guard Eric Bledsoe and West Virginia forward Devin Ebanks.

Another order of business for the Bulls is assembling a coaching staff. Former Bulls assistant Ron Adams is basically a lock to join Thibodeau. Longtime Bulls assistant Pete Myers and player-development coach Randy Brown will stay, while advance scout Mike Wilhelm will be welcomed back if he's interested.

Maurice Cheeks is a possibility to join the staff, but he might be contractually tied to Oklahoma City. Former Warriors and Kings head coach Eric Musselman has ties to Thibodeau because Musselman's father, Bill, originally brought Thibodeau to the NBA with the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves.

It doesn't appear Lindsey Hunter, who retired as a player last season, will become a full-time coach with the Bulls.